By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor


It was the top of the 4th, one out and no one on base in the May 11 ball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. The Rays were leading 2-0 when Yankee Brett Gardner hit a fly ball into left field. Rays outfielder Tommy Pham raced for the catch just as he lost his left contact lens. Without breaking stride, however, the ball landed neatly in Pham’s glove for the second out. Pham searched the ground for a moment, then reached into his back pocket, pulled out a compact mirror and spare contact lens to reinsert the lens on the field. Pham made it seem like no big deal.

Actually, it was a big deal. Pham has keratoconus in his left eye and wears special contact lenses to correct his vision. Keratoconus is a progressive condition in which the cornea thins and bulges out into a cone shape, causing severe astigmatism and distorted vision. Its cause is unknown. Pham was unaware of the condition for some time. While playing for the St. Louis Cardinals farm team in 2008, he realized that his high strikeout rate might be blamed on a vision problem. He went for an eye exam and got glasses. After a few months, though, they weren’t helping. The Cardinals farm director encouraged Pham to see another doctor who diagnosed the keratoconus. Unfortunately, continued attempts at vision correction didn’t improve Pham’s game.


After the 2009 season, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler reached out to Pham about Holcomb C3-R, a non-invasive cross-linking procedure that uses a proprietary solution to increase the corneal collagen, strengthening the cornea and stabilizing the keratoconus. Following the procedure, it took a few tries with custom rigid and soft contact lenses to create the lenses that keep Pham competitive in a field where vision better than 20/20 is common. His career batting average is currently .279 (Gardner is at .259). Pham’s courage and persistence in the face of what could have been a career-ending eye condition earned him an award as Ambassador by the National Keratoconus Foundation. In that capacity, Pham speaks to groups around the country.

The Tampa Bay Rays went on to win the game 7-2. Although Pham’s four at bats earned him only a base on balls, fans will remember his skill and aplomb with the lost contact lens play. You can learn more about the advantages of contact lenses over spectacles for peripheral vision, reduced spatial distortion, depth perception, dynamic visual acuity, improved eye-hand coordination and personal confidence for athletes with our CE, Explore Specialty Markets to Build Your Contact Lens Business at 2020mag.com/ce.